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district in which they are located, so some charter schools get less than local school
districts, and some get more. In Michigan, charter schools are funded comparably up to
about $6,000 a year, the maximum funding for charter schools. In New Jersey, charter
schools receive 90 percent of base funding, but the base includes transportation (5.4
percent) and private school support (1.4 percent).40 Charter schools can also appeal to the
state commissioner of education to increase the percentage above 90 percent. So in New
Jersey, base funding can be rated as comparable.
The next two rows address the question of grade level funding. By definition, K-12 charter
schools are funded comparably to K-12 school districts.41 Most experts agree that
elementary school students are less expensive to educate than high school students.42 Thus
an elementary charter school receiving funds based on K-12 averages has an advantage
compared to a regular elementary school. Charter high schools face a funding
disadvantage. Hence, the table gives an “M” rating to elementary charter schools and an
“L” rating to charter high schools. States that use grade level weights for charter schools
receive a “C” rating even though it is unclear whether the state weightings for grade level
39 In Charter Schools: Issues Affecting Access to Federal Funds (U.S. GAO, 1997), the GAO noted that Title
I funds for low-income children and special education funds are allocated to schools that meet established
federal, state and local demographic criteria. Although charter schools treated as school districts avoid having
to meet additional criteria used to distribute funds beyond the district level, these charter schools are no more
likely to have received Title I and special education funding than are the charter schools which are treated as
components of existing school districts.
Districts provide transportation services directly to charter schools, so including transportation in the
allocation as well would be a double payment. The percentage data for New Jersey are from Wynn (1995).
In states, like California, Illinois and Massachusetts, some K-12 charter schools may get funding from
elementary school districts or high school districts. These situations are not considered.
See for example Levin, 1999. There may well be instances, however, where elementary programs are more
expensive because of lowered class sizes and intensive education programs. 86 Comparability of Charter School and School District Funding accurately account for all the additional costs of educating particular grade populations in
The next row contains a rating of how charter school funding matches up to its host district
as a result of geographic variations in funding. Such variations include those based on local
wealth and tax effort, as well as those based on formula adjustments for factors such as
cost of living, school/district size and sparsity. Arizona is the only state that gives charter
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- Spring '09